It was a day to mark the catastrophe of five years earlier, to remember as if any could forget the tragedy that devastated the United States and changed the world. But remembrance had no monopoly, because yesterday as over the weeks and months stretching back to 11 September 2001 old suffering in America was being joined by the new across the globe.
In the United States, the calendar demanded reflection and prayer five years after Islamic extremists perpetrated attacks on American landmarks with hi-jacked airliners which killed 2,973 people and catapulted the nation and its allies into a complex and bloody struggle against terror that still has no end.
At a sombre ceremony at Ground Zero, the still-barren hole in Lower Manhattan where the felled Twin Towers once stood, spouses and partners of victims took turns to read out the full roster of names of those who died on 11 September 2001.
Moments of silence were observed at 8.46am and 9.03am, when the two aircraft struck the towers, and again at 9.59am and 10.29am, when they collapsed.
Yet the much larger tally of destruction and death spawned by 9/11 and by the campaign of retribution launched in its name by the US only grows, and yesterday, with more scenes of violence and sorrow in Iraq, in Afghanistan and in Britain, was no different. War makes no concessions to anniversaries.
If some knew instantly that the consequences of 9/11 would be long-lasting and bloody, the future we now inhabit was crystallised with a vow by George Bush six days later to "rid the world of evil-doers". He said: "This crusade, this war on terrorism is gonna take awhile. And the American people must be patient." With one word, "crusade", he seemed to set up a clash of religions and civilisations, a sentiment he echoed last night as he talked of a "struggle for civilisation".
In Britain yesterday the grief was fresh as the families of five of 19 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan in recent days gathered at RAF Brize Norton to receive the bodies of their loved ones. Flag-draped coffins of the five Pte Craig O'Donnell, L/Cpl Paul Muirhead, L/Cpl Luke McCulloch, Fijian Ranger Anare Draiva and Cpl Mark Wright were lifted from a C-17 transporter.
In Afghanistan, mourning and violence collided as a suicide bomber attacked the funeral for a provincial governor murdered the previous day. Six cabinet ministers attending the funeral were unhurt, but six other people were killed. The country is experiencing the worst violence since the US coalition forced out the Taliban regime in the weeks after 9/11.
Violence in Iraq continues unabated. Yesterday, 12 people, mostly recruits to the Iraqi army, were killed when a suicide bomber attacked their minibus in Baghdad. Across the city, Saddam Hussein, the former dictator ousted by the US-ledinvasion of March 2003, was again voicing defiance in a courtroom, where he faces charges of genocide against Iraqi Kurds.
"All the witnesses said in the courtroom that they were oppressed because they were Kurds," Saddam shouted. "They're trying to create strife between the people of Iraq. They're trying to create division between Kurds and Arabs, and this is what I want the people of Iraq to know."
Surely also damaged in these five years has been the cause of Middle East peace and the reputation of Mr Bush's first ally, Tony Blair. Lebanon this summer was engulfed in war, and Mr Blair, who was seen to side with Mr Bush in delaying the push for a ceasefire, found himself besieged yesterday by protesters during a visit to Beirut. In an effort to repair a tattered legacy, the Prime Minister vowed again to dedicate his remaining tenure to ending strife in the region.
Yet the spectre of violence looms large still, with al-Qa'ida using the anniversary to issue a new video urging yet more attacks against the UN for its role in Lebanon, against the US, against its allies in the Persian Gulf and against Israel.
In the video, the deputy al-Qa'ida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned Western leaders: "Do not bother yourselves with defending your forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. These forces are doomed to failure. You have to bolster your defences in two areas ... the first is the Gulf, from which you will be evicted, God willing, after your defeat in Iraq, and then your economic doom will be achieved."
But in America, where in New York the sky was the same clear blue as on the day of the Twin Towers massacre and where tolling church bells ushered in the morning, these and the other consequences of President Bush's " crusade" were set aside. It was a day for mourning its own.
Mr Bush, who on Sunday quietly laid wreaths in two reflecting pools placed on the footprints of the towers at Ground Zero, observed the first two moments of silence with the first lady, Laura Bush, at a historic fire station, known as Fort Pitt, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Eschewing the low profile he has kept on previous anniversaries, Mr Bush later left New York en route to the field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United flight 93 crashed, killing 40 passengers and crew, and thereafter to the Pentagon, where 184 people died after American Airlines flight 77 ploughed into the building.
In a televised address from the Oval Office last night, Mr Bush said: " America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. And so do I. But the war is not over, and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."
"If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century and determine the destiny of millions across the world."
Losing the war
* Most Britons believe the war against terrorism is being lost at home, according to an NOP poll for the BBC. Only 24 per cent think it is being won in the UK, while 53 per cent say it is being lost. Fifty-five per cent of people believe the Government has aligned itself too closely with US foreign policy, compared with 11 per cent who believe the UK should be more closely linked to the US. Equally, a majority, 56 per cent, believes the fight against international terrorism is being lost abroad, while 20 per cent of people believe the fight is being won. The results reflect those in a YouGov poll published yesterday.Reuse content